We must address the challenges to competitiveness: skills

Apr 6, 2016

The National Competitiveness Council last week issued its Why Competitiveness Matters Bulletin. Its key message during this time of political uncertainty in Ireland is that, “the same urgency and commitment that went into bringing down the government deficit, stabilising debt levels and securing the banking system must now go into maintaining and improving competitiveness.” We absolutely agree that maintaining the competitiveness of Irish business will be a key policy issue in our economy in the coming years.

The range of skills shortages and the relatively large cohort of workers with relatively low levels of educational attainment are identified as one of the current challenges to Irish competitiveness. The NCC also points to skills as an issue under the challenge that the taxation system poses, in other words our taxation system must be internationally competitive in order to attract and retain skilled employees.

The National Competitiveness Council recommends that the National Skills Strategy is implemented urgently. We agree and strongly argue that certain key areas must be prioritised to address the skills mismatch and shortages within our economy. The education system must be reformed to support economic development and better meet the skills needs of the economy, both in the immediate and the long term.

The National Skills Strategy 2025’s objectives state: People across Ireland will engage in lifelong Learning. Creating more opportunities for people in employment to up-skill and seek further training is an essential policy that must be implemented to address the current skills needs in the economy. We support the refocusing of the National Training Fund, in light of decreasing unemployment figures, and used to prioritise the training and up-skilling of SMEs and their employees.  Reducing the skills mismatches in the economy through up-skilling those in employment and retraining those currently unemployed is an effective way of addressing the challenge that skills mismatches pose to our competitiveness.

Investment in education is essential for the continuation of our economic development. We cannot attract FDI if we cannot ensure that Irish people have the necessary range of skills businesses require, and likewise, we cannot advance home-grown Irish industry without a skilled workforce. A developed, future-proof and modern economy requires a highly skilled workforce and Ireland needs a long term strategy that supports learning and development in order to achieve this.

For more information on our Education and Skills policy you can read the relevant section in our A Vision for 2021 manifesto here

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